Double-Double Gratitude, Happy Thanksgivukkah!

A Turkey-shaped Challah

A Turkey-shaped Challah

This year, I think I’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in a Jewish home because I don’t want to miss out on Thanksgivukkah. That’s the pop culture portmanteau neologism for the first day of Hanukkah that falls on Thanksgiving this year. (Such a phrase! Oy, the fun!)

This is the first and only Thanksgivukkah in our lifetimes. The next one is 70,000 years from now. Since both holidays are about giving thanks, it’s double-double gratitude happy happy joy joy, 2X the love.

The Thanksgivukkah Meal

A Thanksgivukkah menu combines the best foods from both holidays: Manizchewitz-brined turkey….challah stuffing….pumpkin pie with caraway and seeds in the crust. The Internet is a cornucopia of creative and healthy Thanksgivukkah recipes. My favorites are from Christine Byrne for BuzzFeed who has nine original recipes that combine the best foods from both holidays for us. I am considering these recipes:

Your thoughts, Will you be celebrating Thanksgivukkah? What’s for dinner? 

Squatters Get Free Subway Rides

Subway Squat

This is right up my alley. I ride the subway, I worship squats, and I’m all over free stuff. The proof is in my archives:
Do You Know (How to) Squat?
If You See Something Say Something
3 Degrees of Separation from Snackman
Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Free Yogurt

And so, you can imagine my excitement when I read the headline today:

—-   Russian Commuters Can Earn Free Subway Ticket by Doing Squats   —-

The news is that the Russian Committee for the 2014 Winter Olympics (in Russia) came up with a cool promotion for one month. They are giving away a free travel ticket to anyone who does thirty squats. How clever is that? And look at how easy it was to set up the ticket machine:

If this is another Space Race, then Russia is beating us for supremacy in physical fitness, public health and public relations campaigns. Our subway stunts don’t promote healthy behavior. Do you remember when Heineken Took Over the NYC MTA? You know, I’m going to email Mike Bloomberg, Michelle Obama, and Stephen Colbert too right now.

Your thoughts: Should Americans get free subway tickets for doing squats?

Have a Complicated Halloween

Halloween Letter Fargo MomDid you see the Halloween letter from Anonymous Mom? She is handing it out instead of candy to overweight kids. Her stand against childhood obesity made the media outlets. Too bad she doesn’t know that shaming doesn’t work. Weight prejudice seems to be socially acceptable now and will become more so when healthcare costs are transparent. But back to today and the conflicts Americans have about Halloween candy. Check out yesterday’s Tweets:

  • How to talk to your kids about Halloween candy.
  • Watch out for these common (and gross!) ingredients in Halloween candy.
  • Don’t get caught giving petroleum, GMOs, and trans fat to little children.
  • Artificial dyes linked to M+Ms.
  • What it takes to burn off your Halloween treats.
  • Food Allergies: Could Halloween Kill My Child?
  • 7 Terrifying Facts About Halloween Candy!

Danger! Danger! And still, the kids return with their sacks full.

A few years ago, I was asked to write about the “healthiest” Halloween candy. What could I say? “Give out candy that won’t get eaten.” Dum Dum Lollipops, wax lips, and candy buttons stuck on paper tape. Nobody eats those. Pencils, stickers, and temporary tattoos, All good. As you can image, my Dietitian’s Guide to Halloween Candy wasn’t well received. The comments tell all.

Realistically, Halloween night is a free-for all. Everybody eats candy. That goes on for another day or two, but sooner rather than later, candy is rationed to one piece at lunch and another after school. Some is shared with grown-ups or relegated to the freezer or traded with a friendly dentist for cash. (Just don’t dump candy on the Food Bank because needy people need real food!)

I’ve stated my feelings about junk before in Eat Only the Junk Food That You Make. But homemade doesn’t fly on Halloween because of hidden razor blades. Oy! Razor blades, artificial dyes, barbs from Anonymous Mom. Halloween is complicated.

Your thoughts: What is your Halloween candy plan?

Confessions of a Wheat Germ Lover

Wheat GermA brief interaction on Twitter led Kretschmer Wheat Germ to me. They are considering me for a “Happy Wheat Germ User” feature, but needed to know more first.

Wheat Germ and Me

As a nutrition-loving baby boomer, it seems like I have always known about wheat germ. Along with soy protein and non-fat dried milk, it was part of Cornell Bread, a staple food developed for wartime rationing in the 1940s (well before my birth!) My first encounter with a regular wheat germ eater took the form of a woman from Switzerland I met in my late teens. She ate wheat germ for breakfast mixed with avocado and honey or as part of muesli along with yogurt. I like to add wheat germ to recipes for pancakes, muffins, veggie burgers, and meatballs. My favorite Wheat Germ Bread is from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book via Kretschmer Wheat Germ a long time ago.

The Original Super-food

As a registered dietitian, people complain to me about feeling stiff-achy-and-punk. Their children are listless and their parents are falling apart with inflammatory diseases and cancers. To them I say, “You really ought to be eating wheat germ!” Wheat germ is LOADED with B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid), vitamin E and essential fatty acids, the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper and zinc, plus protein and phenolic compounds. Wheat germ is the nazz! In fact, the germ is the richest part of the wheat kernel, which is why white flour is a problem: the germ (and bran) is tossed during in processing. Such a sin.

An Image Problem

A “germ” is a seed, bud, spore, or embryo, the basis of all new life. A plant germ is highly nutritious because it has the nutrients to support future growth.  A “germ” is also a microorganism, especially one that produces disease. People today don’t seem to know that one germ has nothing to do with the other. Wheat germ needs a re-branding campaign. I can help with that.

Here are three good wheat germ recipes from my recipe files at Calorie Count:

Your thoughts: Do you eat (and enjoy) wheat germ?

A Fire Escape Herb Garden

Image

Fire Escape Herb Garden in August

Fire Escape Herb Garden in August

Naysayers, I know it’s illegal. But, in case of fire, toss the pots and run.

Everyone else, I thought you might like to see what can grow in a 3′ X 3′ space fire escape in the city.

This year, there is spearmint, chives, flat parsley, lemon grass, Italian oregano, culinary thyme, rosemary, Genovese sweet basil, spicy globe basil, morning glory, nasturtium, euphorbia, a dwarf Japanese maple tree, and self-seeded red-orange impatiens and a heirloom black cherry-tomato. The mint and chives reappear every year.

At the risk of sounding like Martha Stewart, I love cooking with fresh herbs. Yum, flavor! Yippee, disease-fighting antioxidants! And a way to use less salt. Here’s a little Guide to Using Fresh Herbs from the Cooperative Extension offices at the Universities of Nebraska and New Jersey (Rutgers), your tax dollars at work.

At my place August means it’s all-pesto-all-the-time (add a little lemon to keep it green) and Insalata Caprese, as well as mint syrup in beverages, rosemary vinegar, and assorted herbs in every salad, stew and roasted dish.

Your thoughts, How do you cook with fresh herbs?

The Absolutely, Positively Not Chip to Eat

Clean room technician holding  finished microchip waferOkay, I’m blowing the whistle on Ray Kurzweil, the director of engineering at Google. Did you hear him being interviewed by NPR Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal on May 3rd? Please, listen as Ray tells Kai that microchip computers will soon live in our brains. Ray said,

“Ultimately these devices will be the size of blood cells, we’ll be able to send them inside our brain through the capillaries, and basically connect up brain to the cloud. But that’s a mid-2030’s scenario.”

In Kurzweil’s vision, these advances don’t simply bring computers closer to our biological systems. Machines become more like us. “Your personality, your skills are contained in information in your neocortex, and it is information,” Kurzweil says. “These technologies will be a million times more powerful in 20 years and we will be able to manipulate the information inside your brain.”

“When I say that computers will reach human levels of understanding by the 2030s, I’m specifically talking about emotion. I’m talking about getting the joke, and being funny, and being sexy, and being loving.”

“When computers can achieve these things it’s not for the purpose of displacing us it’s really to make ourselves smarter, and smarter in the sense of being more loving… Really enhancing the things that we value about humans.”

So, our brain functions are altered remotely by supercomputers via microchips?  Robotization to fix personality quirks.

But, but…I thought humans learned those things through spiritual growth. One thing I do know: No chips for me.

Your thoughts: ….about implanting microchips in humans?

Rethinking Soda at the Movies

soda at the MoviesSince I choose to do those things that amuse me most, I find myself in lots of crazy places. A few weeks ago, I was a guest on Brooklyn Independent Television’s show, Intersect, talking about Mayor Bloomberg’s sugary drink limit with host Brian Vines and fellow guest Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. At minute 23:05, I talk Brian Vine out of thinking big portions of soda at the movies are a bargain. Here is our conversation:

BV:   I was just at the movies two weeks ago and split a, what had to be a 60-ounce something, between the two of us. The thing was gone, and this was the debate we had afterwards, that if the mayor would have had his thing, we would’ve had to buy two drinks – and I believe in my health, but I more than that, I am cheaper than I am healthy – so we would have had to buy two different drinks to get the same thing, but we wouldn’t even be allowed to buy the thing if this law passed. So it hits you in the pocketbook because cheap food is usually bad food…
MH:   That’s not food. DON’T CALL THAT FOOD!
BV:   What is it then? It’s empty calorie things….
MH:   It’s empty calorie stuff. You cannot compare….
BV:   Cheap drinks. It’s enjoyment. It’s cheaper though….
MH: Well, for instance, I’m a fun gal, but one thing about me is I do not order anything at the movies. I have unhooked the idea that sitting in a movie means eating. Talk about cheap! I’m not going to that concession stand. I’m not buying any of that stuff!
BV: It’s relative. (laugh)
MH: So let’s get it all straightened out, okay, and that’s what the dialogue is about. It’s testing those ideas people have: “I need my soda!”  Well, why do you need your soda?
BV: Thank you for unhooking me, because it’s not cheap. Soda isn’t cheap at the movies.

Your thoughts: Will Brian Vine quit drinking soda at the movies?

The Cleansing Power of Dayenu

THANXNo, it’s not a laundry detergent. It’s a song I learned at my first Passover Seder two weeks ago, and now I can’t get it out of my head – which is a good thing. Dayenu is a traditional Passover song about being grateful to God for the gifts he gave the Jewish people. For 15 stanzas, the leader says something or other and we, the audience, respond with “Dayenu.” “Dayenu” means one gift would have been enough.
“If he had split the sea for us…It would have been enough for us.”
“If He had led us through on dry land…It would have been enough for us.”
The song is surprisingly upbeat despite its woeful subject matter.

And so It’s All Dayenu All the Time for me. Honestly, the concept that taken over my brain. I lie in bed, wake up, and I think, “I am so comfortable here on this memory foam mattress.…it would have been enough.…my pillow is perfect too….it would have been enough….and the light is so beautiful streaming in through the window.…it would have been enough.… It makes it easy to be thankful for every single thing.

The other day, my friend, the Passover hostess, who lives around the corner said, “Let’s meet on the sidewalk.” I thought to have a friend who lives around the corner…it would have been enough.…to meet on a brand-new sidewalk….it would have been enough….to face a beautiful museum….it would have been enough….on such a sunny day….it would have been enough….

Somehow, I don’t think the Scholars of The Torah had this in mind – but it works for me. Saying Dayenu has a cleansing effect that I can feel. Gratitude changes us on a cellular level. When we feel thankful, our cells transmit chemicals that enhance our nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system – all systems –  that are consistent with good health. The “cleansing” delivers a sense of calm and peacefulness that forms a base for mindful living and healthy eating too.

Your thoughts about attitude, gratitude, and Dayenu….

Adorkable Easter Appetizers

Easter Appetizers Deviled EggsA lot of people ask me, Mary, do you make adorkable appetizers for every holiday? I say, not really, but if I do make anything, I make these. I like my appetizers to be wholesome, easy, attention-getting, and appealing to kids. Besides, my traffic spiked traffic to 10,000 hits a day because of those Strawberry Santas at Christmas. The people have spoken. Adorkable appetizers it is! Click on the links for “how-to” recipe information.

 

Eggy Chicks, Roosters and Bunnies

File these appetizers under “What to Do with the Hard-cooked Eggs.” The deviled Easter egg chicks (above) are my favorite and the no-devil roosters and happy-face chicks are easy enough to make, but the deviled bunnies are scary to me; however, I’ve seen worse. Rachel Ray shows how to make the deviled egg chicks.

Easter no devil Easter roostersEaster Bunny_deviled_eggs_Lg (1)

Raw Vegetables Appetizers Kids will Eat Easter Potted CarrotsEaster Appetizers Smurf Mushrooms

Rule number one: kids love to dip. I love these Potted Carrots and Dip from Toys in the Dryer and the Smurfy Radish Mushrooms from The Paper Pony. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

Easter Appetizers Chick Breadeaster_chickbunsEaster Chick Buns

Granted, making bread is a lot harder than boiling an egg, but how sweet are these little chick rolls?  Grandma’s Kitchen shows you how.

 

Scary Bunnies

Tell me if this pear bunny doesn’t look like a rat? The recipe is from my childhood cookbook and it still creeps me out.

Easter Pear Bunny Image_2Easter_ betty_crocker_boys_and_girls-thumb-250x343Easter bunny_salad-thumb-500x671

Your thoughts: Do you see adorkable Easter appies in your near future?

You Are No Match for Big Food as Stephen Colbert Explains

So, by now, everybody knows that, at the 11th hour, a New York State Supreme Court Judge overturned Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to ban the sale of large sugary drinks in New York City restaurants. Constitutionality aside, I think the judge didn’t want to wait in the long line at Dunkin’ Donuts. There will be appeals and the lawyers will get rich because the American Beverage Association spends millions and billions to fight soda taxes and laws like Bloomberg’s across the land every year. People don’t understand that we all pay for obesity in higher taxes to support Medicare, Medicare, disability benefits, etc.  And “personal responsibility” is no match against foods that are engineered and marketed to make us overeat. Stephen Colbert explains it better than I. Watch.